Friday, February 13, 2015

5 Benefits to the Global Classroom

Connecting is common place for students today. Students connect to people everyday via social media, gaming, and YouTube   Why not tap these connectivity tools for your classroom.  Globalizing your classroom is beneficial because it allows you access to experts, raise multicultural awareness, give students an authentic audience, provide opportunities for cooperative learning, and create a magical classroom environment.   

Let’s look at five benefits to the global classroom.

1.  Expertise
Let’s face it, we all can’t know everything.  In these days of tightening budgets, field trips may not be an option.  A perfect solution is to bring the experts and experiences to your classroom. Allowing students to connect with experts not only allows them to hear what they have to say, but to be inquisitive and ask questions.  Whether you participate in a Mystery Skype, explore a museum by a virtual field trip, join a global project, or bring in an expert to your students via a Google Hangout,  you will see direct educational benefits from the learning from their experiences.    

2.  Multicultural Awareness
The second best thing to traveling to a new country is connecting with a country via a video conference.  Having a class discussion with two classrooms in different countries increases student perspective and allows all students to gain new insight.  While literature and videos are great ways to learn about new cultures and different languages, there is no replacement for face time with individuals actually living a different culture and speaking a different language. In addition, students gain a global perspective, understand time zones, can identify cities and countries around the world, and enjoy a first hand learning experience.  Connected teachers often hang a world map in their rooms and track their hangouts with thumbtacks. This map becomes a great talking point, is a visual reminder of their experiences, and an excellent way to keep track of all the connections made throughout the school year.  

3.  Authentic Audience
What is the value of an audience beyond the classroom teacher?  Motivation! I have witnessed students blossom into incredible readers and writers with an authentic audience waiting to read and comment on their work.  Globalizing your classroom with blogging is powerful.  Suddenly, not only does writing matter, but word choice and grammar do too.  Our students have enjoyed being partnered with sister blogging classrooms. With blogging partners, classrooms takes turns in the blogging and commenting process.  One day your classroom adds comments, and the next day you write blog posts!  It is incredibly validating for writers to receive meaningful comments from around the world. An easy way to start blogging with students it to use .  Amplify your student work and join with other blogging classrooms using the hashtag #comments4kids on Twitter.  

4.Cooperative Learning and Collaboration  
Global classrooms foster cooperative learning experiences for students.  One such global classroom idea is Mystery Skype / Hangout.  Students participate in a class challenge to determine the location of the other classroom.  Mystery Skype is global geography game.  By asking a series of yes/no questions, students narrow the location of the mystery classroom. The first classroom to guess correctly wins!  This activity taps into deductive reasoning skills, collaboration, and previous geography knowledge. The students gain confidence in their mapping, geography, and questioning skills as they partake in more and more of these activities.  You can read more about Mystery Skype in a previous blog post here.

5.  Curious and  Magical Classroom Environments
The ARCS model of technology integration says “lessons should increase students’ focus by using novel, surprising and out of the ordinary and uncertain events.  Effective techniques should stimulate a sense of wonder and maintain interest.”  The global classroom provides daily opportunities that raise curiosity and create magical learning moments.  One magical moment was when two high school Spanish classes connected for genuine Spanish speaking practice.  As the other students appeared on the screen, it was as if a UFO landed in front of the classroom. They were glued to the new people on the screen. Students fired off questions in Spanish and began a dialogue back and forth. They were curious to learn more about each other.  This created an authentic speaking environment with a classroom over 1500 miles away.  Suddenly grammar and vocabulary mattered.  It is important to have global learning activities on the calendar so students can look forward to the next time they travel outside the classroom walls and connect with others.

Globalizing the classroom gives your students access to the world’s expertise, an raises multicultural awareness, provides an authentic audience, allows for cooperative learning opportunities, and a creates magical learning environments.

Challenge yourself to participate in one global learning project this year.  Use these resources as a springboard to connecting your classroom globally.

  • Join a Google Community such as Connected Classroom

Let's celebrate global classroom success stories.  Share your global classroom experiences by adding a comment to this post.

Written by Ann Feldmann


Monday, February 9, 2015

The Media Center/ Library: Hub of Creativity and Collaboration

Creating a library/media center with learning spaces conducive to collaboration and communication is essential for the library/media center of today.  Today’s students use the library/media center as more than a place for research. It is a place to utilize books, media, and digital tools to create, collaboration, and discover.  The library/media center at Lewis and Clark Middle School is the heart of creativity. It is centrally located in the middle of the building for easy access by all classes. The addition of iPads and Mac Airs increased the strength of the heartbeat.

Pat Smith, Librarian/Media Specialist at Lewis and Clark Middle School, and Roxie Kelly, Library/Media para, have developed a culture that meets the unique needs of middle school students and teachers.  Reinventing the library/media center space has been accomplished at little or no cost.  Learning spaces can be created easily to accommodate large groups, small groups, and individual work.  While the expectations of learning are high, there is also an emphasis on creation, innovation and collaboration.  Students are encouraged to move around, group and regroup themselves, and share ideas while using all the resources the library/media center has to offer.

Using iPads in the library/media center is part of the culture at Lewis and Clark. Students and staff seamlessly weave technology into their daily routine. Teachers can and do expect students to use the iPads or laptops for research, most often using Destiny as the gateway to the Internet.

When developing lesson plans, teachers choose technology as an option for students to demonstrate their learning. iMovie, iMovie Trailer, Haiku Deck, Explain Everything, Pic Collage, Keynote, WebMD, Accelerated Reader and Destiny are some of the most used applications.  Along with all of the tools and resources available in the library/media center, there is a green screen studio, fondly named Studio 3B. Recently, Mr. Bradley, an English teacher, had his students recreate a play based on the Twilight Zone using the green screen app Doink and Studio 3B. Also, eighth grade language arts students created digital books about a favorite author with the app Book Creator.

Here are some impressive numbers on the utilization of technology:

iPad usage at Lewis and Clark for 1st semester during regularly scheduled classes exceeded 5300 students. Also, 332 students dropped into the library/media center during Guided Study to take AR quizzes and use the iPads for research and projects.

Desktop Lab 130 - 335 class periods
Desktop Lab 131 - 270 class periods
MacAir Cart A - 372 class periods
MacAir Cart B - 394 class periods

Out of 648 class periods available during 1st semester, 424 were scheduled with classes. Communication and collaboration between the media center staff and the teaching staff is encouraged and sought after. The primary reason we do not use Google Calendar or another online scheduling tool to schedule time in the media center/computer labs is so that we can have one to one conversations with the teachers. This enables us to delve into the needs of the individual teacher and inquire about what the library/media center can provide in terms of suggestions and support.

The above statistics translate to approximately 9800 students served during the 1st semester. These statistics do not include drop-ins, as students are not tracked in 9th period Guided Study or other periods of the day.

Regardless of the time of day, the library/media center is full of students collaborating and creating with a variety of resources.  The heart of the school beats strong and flows into all curricular areas.  How are you utilizing your media center?  How does your  librarian/media specialist establish a culture of creation and collaboration in your building?

Written by Jeanette Carlson (@mrsjcarlson), Ann Feldmann (@annfeldmann1), and Jennifer Krzystowczyk (@jennykbps) in conjunction with Pat Smith.